At the Ready, Adjusting My Sling Carry Loadout

You really only need a few key items, one of which is a pen. You gotta have a pen.

I’ve been carrying a sling style bag for a while now, and before that a small satchel field bag. Over that time my bag has ballooned in the amount of stuff in it, and then predictably slimmed back down as I sorted out what I actually need. I figure with more people getting vaccines and trying to venture tenuously back into the world, I would update you on some of the items I find most useful.

Here are a few things which have proven more useful than anything else:

  1. A Pen: I have long had a pen within arms reach anytime I have a bag with me. And I dabbled with carrying a pen daily, but it was never easy to keep in my pocket (pants or jacket). However, with the pandemic, it became clear to me that carrying a pen is no longer an option but a must. A must because of all the shared items out there, pens are the ones which never get cleaned and where no one thinks twice about sharing and using. Gross. Carry your own pen. I’ll also say that I prefer to carry something with a cap that screws on because that means lower risk for leaking. While I think there are exceptions (like the Tactile Turn bolt actions) where the pen is hard to deploy, it is not worth the risk to me. I carry the Machine Era Pen, which is hard to beat for $38 and easy to leave in your bag.
  2. Mask: originally I started carrying a mask in my sling as a backup option, should I forget one. But it quickly became my defacto mask, as I stopped grabbing one and rely on the mask in my sling. This is mostly ok-ish. The caveat is that you need to make sure there is always one in your sling — one time I got to a UPS Store only to find that I forgot to put a mask in my sling after washing it, and then had to dig in my Get Home Bag in the trunk for a KN95 that is stowed in there. Ugh.
  3. Mints: having bad breath is bad enough when others can smell it, but having bad breath while wearing a mask is atrocious. Mints.
  4. Something to wipe your hands. Maybe even not your hands, but for sure your kids hands. I have a double setup for this: anti-bacterial wet ones (nearly impossible to buy right now, I am working off an old stock) and a clean handkerchief. The latter is for drying my hands after washing them, should there be no other good options. I use both a lot.
  5. Lip Balm: gotta be ready, always.

Of all the other things I keep in there, I have yet to use any of them outside of those five. That’s not to say I should stop carrying them, they are just all more emergency items. So if you want a good starting place, the above is that starting place.

But the biggest tip of all: organization is important, because without that you won’t use the stuff you are carrying. This is more than knowing you have something with you, but where and how to quickly get to those items which matters. In some of the slings I have tested my pen ends up getting buried at the bottom of the sling and thus I am more drawn to the easy option of grabbing the communal pen. This is bad.

But in some of my more recent setups I can quickly get to my pen, or mints without even looking at what I am doing. So while I am not a huge fan of very detailed organization in my backpacks — I am in slings, as that is a boon for actually using your stuff, and getting it done without hassle.

If you know where something is, then you are going to feel like you can get to it fast enough that you end up using it above all other options. Kind of like how people who carry a knife say they use one all the time, whereas those who do not cannot understand how people need a knife so much. At some point you stop realizing how many Amazon boxes you tear open with your hands, which you would have otherwise used a knife for, that is if you had one on you in that moment.

The same logic applies. If you have mints, can easily get to them, and like them — your breath is generally always going to smell better. And if I keep candy in the sling, then I am for sure going to be eating that candy. It’s just the way the world works.

The Rest of My Sling Carry

Here’s a list of what I carry in the sling right now:

  • RZ Mask w/ Valve Caps: I know some people don’t like these, but I like the claimed extra protection over a general mask, the odor blocking (outside odor), and they breath a little easier than KN95s. But the big one: they don’t fog up my glasses or sunglasses. Which is huge.
  • Altoids Smalls: I actually don’t like the Smalls that much, I prefer the full Altoids. But the full Altoids are messy and leave dust everywhere, the Smalls don’t. I need to find something better next.
  • 1.5” Chem Lights: I mean these are just cool. Completely useless, but so cool.
  • Pico Pill Case: Advil. Always Advil.
  • S-Biner #3: I keep this just to have something to use to clip this bag to something else if I need it. Many tell me to get a Heroclip, it’s on my list, but they just look so silly.
  • Rovyvon A8xU: this is an awesome light. Perfect for this kit as it is small but bright and light weight too.
  • Lightning Cable: for charging.
  • Lip Balm: Burt’s Bees. I don’t even like Bees.
  • Small Brass Compass: I’ve always carried a compass with me, always will.
  • Machine Era Pen: stated above, good stuff. I’ve also flown a ton with this pen without issue.
  • Wet Ones Anti-Bacterial: I still don’t think you can readily find these. It’s a shame, I love having them and I am almost out of stock finally What do you know, back in stock for normal prices. Great for cleaning up surfaces with some level of confidence.
  • Handkerchief: hand wiping device.
  • Contacts Case: More than once I have needed/wanted to remove my contacts but had no place to put them if I did — that’s why I carry this now.
  • BandAids, Alcohol Wipes, and 2 disposable surgical masks.
  • Emergency Contacts Sheet: that’s the small green folded paper, it is printed on Rite in the Rain printer paper and has relevant phone numbers and such.
  • Kleenex: nothing but the best for my nose.
  • Field Notes or sometimes Rite in the Rain Notebook: carrying a pen without some paper? That’s crazy talk.
  • Victorinox Swiss Army Evolution Grip 18: one of my favorite multitools, if only I had duct tape and a paper clip — could you imagine the things I could do?
  • Anker Battery Backup: small, simple, effective.

The only other things which come in and out of the bag as needed are:

  • Nitecore NU25: I love this headlamp and will toss it in if I am going somewhere or doing something where I feel there might be a high chance of needing this. Say I am going on a walk with the kids and it is closer to sunset.
  • Snacks: for me, for the kids, for everyone. Typically sugar, typically fantastic. Most recently I packed some fruit snacks in case I had a little fainting issue when I went to get my shot.

Hope this helps, I am sure I am not even close to done evolving this yet.

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